The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with an undrafted rookie defender.
Name: J.C. Jackson
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #65)
Opening day age: 22
Size: 6’1, 200 lbs.
2017 review: In 2017, former high school All-American J.C. Jackson had the best year of his college career. As a physical press-man cornerback that had a knack for locating the football in the air, the redshirt junior started all 12 of Maryland’s games and finished the season tied for the team-lead with three interceptions. Furthermore, the Florida native registered seven pass breakups (second on the team), 40 tackles and one forced fumble.
After a season which the Terrapins ended with a 4-8 record, Jackson opted to forgo his senior year and instead declared for the draft. He was invited to the scouting combine and posted solid numbers (4.46 40-yard dash, 14 bench press reps, 35.5” vertical jump, 10’0” broad jump), but was projected to at best come off the board on day three due to inconsistent technique and fairly average athleticism.
Jackson’s dismissal from the University of Florida after his redshirt freshman campaign also did not help boost his draft stock: He was arrested for armed robbery but acquitted on all four felony charges he faced. Jackson later went on to play for Riverside Community College before transferring to Maryland in 2016 and producing a career worthy of NFL recognition – even if it did not come in the form of him getting drafted.
2018 preview: After Jackson went unselected in the draft, the Patriots signed him as a rookie free agent. As such, he will hit the team’s salary cap with $480,000 in 2018 – a modest price for a player that appears to have solid chances of making the roster after being one of the biggest surprises this spring: Jackson saw regular time opposite number one cornerback Stephon Gilmore and left a mostly positive impression.
Of course, playing with the number one defense during organized team activities and minicamp does not mean that Jackson is on his way to the 53-man squad. Still, New England’s coaches were willing to test the undrafted rookie alongside the defensive starters on a regular basis and he did not look overwhelmed by the challenge. If this continues through training camp, the 22-year old will position himself well on a crowded cornerback depth chart.
With a maximum of only two open spots behind projected top-four Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe and Duke Dawson, Jackson needs to make the most of any chances he gets in defense and special teams, and continue improving his technique and at times overaggressiveness. If this all happens he should earn a spot on at least the Patriots’ practice squad and possibly even the active roster.